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The Capstone Program

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Category: Technology

Autor: anton 29 November 2010

Words: 919 | Pages: 4

The Alaska Region's "Capstone Program" is a safety program in Alaska that focuses on increasing aviation safety through the use of the latest advancements in modern technology.

Although being one lonesome state out north, Alaska has approximately 10% of the nation’s air carrier / commercial operators which accounts for approximately 35% of the nation’s air carrier / commercial operator accidents. The NTSB had recorded 112 accidents in Alaska involving air carrier / commercial operator during 1994 to 1996.

A recent study from FAA shows that almost forty percent of those accidents could have been avoided if the aircrafts were equipped with modern avionic equipment which could provide pilots with update weather and traffic information.

Capstone uses multiple programs simultaneously to plan, coordinate and develop new safety programs together with the FAA, the community and the aviation industry consistent with NAS plans and concepts. Capstone is also in place to speed up improved aviation safety through the use of government furnished Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in commercial aircrafts. Capstone will also set up a ground system for weather observation, data link communications, surveillance, and Flight Information Services (FIS) to improve safety. A successful Capstone demonstration will help to reduce the FAA's risk of a nation-wide switch to the future National Airspace System (NAS) Architecture 4.0.

Along with all the avionic equipment listed, the Capstone program also introduced automatic “Dependant Surveillance- Broadcast system (ADS-B), a new technology that allows pilots in the cockpit and air traffic controllers on the ground to "see" aircraft traffic with much more precision than has been possible ever before.” (FAA Capstone program)

The Capstone Program is based on the assumption that operators will equip their aircraft and participate in the program because they can immediately benefit added safety from the avionics. The FAA is foreseeing virtually all commercial operators in the demonstration area will voluntarily equip their aircraft.

The Capstone program was divided into three phases: phase one which focus on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region, phase two will cover southeast Alaska, and phase three will push the program to cover the entire Alaska.

During phase one of the program, the government will provide avionics suite to commercial aircraft operators serving the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta area at no cost, avionics which include: “GX-60 GPS receiver/comm or GX-50 GPS receiver, and the ADS-B (Automatic Dependant Surveillance - Broadcast).” (FAA Capstone program)

FAA will than push the program to cover the southeast part of Alaska during phase two and eventually operate the program statewide during phase three.

Through 2004 the FAA Alaskan Region Capstone Program has achieved significant safety and efficiency results. Capstone equipped aircraft have had a consistently lower accident rate than non- equipped aircraft. From 2000 through 2004, the rate of accidents for Capstone-equipped aircraft dropped significantly--by 47 percent. Also, the rate of accidents for Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region-based air carriers has been falling since 2001, and is now at the lowest rate since 1990. Historically, the rate of air taxi accidents within the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta has been two to four times the rest of Alaska, but in 2003 the accident rate for the region was below the rest of the state for the first time. That is real progress.

Phase II of Capstone will expand the coverage to southeast Alaska, in the Juneau area, and Phase III contemplates expanding the program to cover the entire state. Also as part of Phase II, additional technology infrastructure will be deployed. New Area Navigation (RNAV) and Required Navigation Procedure (RNP) arrival and departure procedures will continue to be developed for the airports recommended by the industry for upgrade to Instrument Flight Rule (IFR) access. RNAV procedures provide flight path guidance incorporated in taxi procedures, with minimal instructions required during departure by air traffic controllers. RNP is on-board technology that promises to add to capacity by allowing pilots to fly more direct point-to-point routes reliably and accurately.

Key benefits of RNAV and RNP include more efficient use of airspace, with improved flight profiles, resulting in significant fuel efficiencies to the airlines. An airport-to-airport Global Positioning System (GPS)/Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) based route structure will be mapped between all IFR airports. Aircraft avionics equipage is a key to an accelerated implementation strategy; therefore Capstone will continue to pursue affordable avionics so that aircraft owners will have a range of choices appropriate to their operational needs. This includes both creating options for equipage and a strategy to ensure that all aircraft in Alaska are equipped. In addition to technology improvements, the FAA has also undertaken safety management and training efforts in partnership with the aviation community here to increase safety awareness and reduce aircraft accidents. In joint efforts with the Medallion Foundation, a non-profit aviation safety organization that provides management resources, training and support to the Alaskan aviation community, the FAA is funding a program known as the Five Star Shield program, which is an enhanced safety management system. The Medallion Five Star Shield program takes a business-like approach to safety, providing for the setting of goals as well as planning and measuring performance in specific areas through the use of system safety concepts. (Morrison & Levin, 2001)

The Capstone Program is intended to use Alaska as a testing site in order to demonstrate new safety and efficiency can be delivered to the equipped aircraft in a cost-effective manner. If the demonstration and its independent safety evaluation prove the Capstone operational concepts are compelling and promising, we should not be surprise to see the program expands to encompass more of the state.


FAA Capstone program

(Morrison & Levin, 2001) USA Today

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